WASHINGTON – The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI), which was most recently driven by restaurant operators’ more optimistic outlook for future business conditions, posted a modest gain in the first month of 2014. The RPI was 100.7 in January, up 0.2 percent from December’s level of 100.5.The RPI also remained above 100 for the 11th consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

“Restaurant operators are more optimistic about business conditions in the months ahead, which is also reflected in ramped up plans for capital spending,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the association. “However, current situation indicators, such as customer traffic, were dampened in January, due in large part to adverse weather conditions.”

The RPI contains two components – the Current Situation Index (measuring current trends) and the Expectations Index (measuring restaurant operators' six-month outlook) – and tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry. The Current Situation Index was 99.5 in January – unchanged from December and the second-consecutive month below 100. Although restaurant operators reported net positive same-store sales, softness in the customer traffic and labor indicators outweighed the performance. Regarding operators' capital expenditure activity, 57 percent made a capital expenditure in the last three months, compared to 51 percent who reported similarly the month before.

The Expectations Index stood totaled 101.8 in January – up 0.3 percent from December and was the highest level in seven months. January also represented the 15th consecutive month in which the Expectations Index stood above 100, which indicates restaurant operators remain optimistic about business conditions in the coming months, according to the association.

Sixty-four percent of restaurant operators indicate they are planning for capital expenditures for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 61 percent who reported similarly in December.